Saturday, March 11, 2006

May her memory be a blessing

Yesterday, at about the time I was posting about my bubbeh's illness, she passed away.

Bubbeh was a kind and gentle soul, who spent hours singing and playing her organ. She loved to talk to everyone and anyone. Bubbeh grew up as one of 8 children, living on an Indian reservation in South Dakota. Her parents were traveling salespeople after immigrating from eastern Europe. When they found a small town in rural South Dakota that had no general store, they opened up shop there, settling in as the only Jewish family for at least 200 miles.

Years before her dementia struck, and years before her creaky, weakened knees landed her in a nursing home, she would, without fail, run through a long list of names of family members before correctly calling you by your given name. We laughed, and chalked it up to a bubbehism. It never bothered us, since the names were always names of people she loved and held near to her heart. It was almost like a verbal reminder of the long line of strong and wonderful people who were our history, and our place within the legacy that is our family.

One of the last times we went to a restaurant with Bubbeh was when she was about 89, and had been in the nursing home for a couple of months. When the waitress came to ask if anyone wanted dessert, my aunt and uncle immediately said, "We know Bubbeh does." Somehow, in all the years I had known my grandmother, I had never made the connection that my insatiable sweet tooth was inherited from her. Seriously, neither of my parents has that sweet tooth, my brother doesn't have it, but, me and Bubbeh, connected by our mutual love of chocolate. (Unfortunately, I also inherited those creaky, weak knees that were her ticket to the nursing home). We joked that evening that a balanced diet for us is one that involves snacking from all of the dessert groups in a given week (creamy, cold, chewy, crunchy, chocolate and fruity).

My favorite Bubbeh memory comes from her 90th birthday party. My dad's cousins run the nursing home where Bubbeh lived. All was well in the home until one of the cousins returned from her missionary work in Asia and took it upon herself to convert all of the non-Christian residents of the nursing home, including her jewish aunt. The day of Bubbeh's birthday party, the cousin took it upon herself to try and enlist my Christian sister-in-law in her efforts to save the souls of the Jewish side of the family. My Bubbeh sat at the other end of the table, and loudly and emphatically announced to the rest of us that her niece had stopped trying to convert her when Bubbeh politely told her, "I've made it 90 years without Jesus in my life, and if you're trying to make the world Christian, don't bother yourself with a stubborn old woman like me. I love you, but I am not going to find Jesus at this age."

Last night, Dyke Two and I were talking about Bubbeh, and she asked if I was sad that she never met Bigfella. In reality, since Bubbeh began to deteriorate when I was in college, I never knew her as an adult. We never discussed my sexuality, she never met Dyke Two, and quite frankly, issues of race were never talked about. I told Dyke Two that I was a little sad that there would be no pictures of Bigfella and his Jewish great-grandparents, but that I had no idea what Bubbeh would have thought of a great-grandson who was bi-racial and being raised by his two moms.

Maybe it is best that my memories of Bubbeh are preserved as my kind and loving grandmother, and were never marred by the harsh reality of one generation challenging the historical legacy of previous generations.


At 6:49 AM, Blogger Jennifer said...

What wonderful memories you have of your beloved grandmother. When you share those with bigfella he'll know that he is part of a legacy of strong and loving women.

I'm sorry for your loss.

At 8:54 AM, Blogger Shelli said...

may her memory indeed be for a blessing, and may you be comforted among the mourners of Zion.

I'm SO sorry for your loss.

Bubbe loss is HARD.

Hugs to you!

At 3:56 PM, Blogger Mo said...

I'm sorry for you loss too. I lost my grandfather at 98 a couple years ago, and she sounds spunky like him. Only he DID become a Catholic in his last year of life after 97 years of being spiritual but without an official religion. I like your Bubbeh's response to your cousin. My thoughts are with you.

At 12:54 AM, Anonymous said...

Sorry that your grandmother is gone,and very sorry that you can't attend her services. You have forced me out of lurkdom, since my family lives on a reservation in South Dakota. I am very interested in finding out which one if you don't mind emailing me. My condolences again, for your loss.


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